Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Introducing... Ask The Yenta!

By now you all know that I'm food obsessed in the manner of a young Labrador. But let me clarify that statement, because this is important. I'm focused on food because I love it but mostly because I'm responsible for feeding five people every day several times a day. I have to be thinking about my next meal because half the time, it must be approached with a level of strategery that even an ex-President couldn't muster on a daily basis.  

For each meal, the following must be assessed and dealt with:
  • What food is on hand?
  • Do I have any desire to eat it?
  • Do I need to go the store?
  • If so, will it be a big trip or a small trip? (A big trip requires a list and coupons)
  • Should I text my husband to see what he feels like for dinner?
  • Can I go to the store in such a way that I don't have to bring all of my offspring with me?
  • Should I just make mac and cheese?
  • Oh crap - how did it get so late?
  • DAMNITALLTOHELL the chicken is still frozen.
  • Sorry, mommy didn't mean to use those words.
  • Call Domino's.
And so despite my love of food and cooking, it all starts to get old and feel like a job. And I need help. I have questions and could really use some inspiration. That's where The Yenta comes in. Her real name is Laura and she is a bonafide expert on food and cooking. And she's not just here for me, hookers. She's here for all of us.

In calling The Yenta, I'm calling in the big guns. And I mean that literally because Laura's cleavage rivals my own. Slightly less impressive is the fact that she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked as an executive chef. She now runs a business called "Dish with the Yenta..." in Philadelphia (where she will come to your house and teach you and your friends stuff while you're drinking - wait. not her drinking - you drinking). She also has a very cool blog called The Oy of Cooking...

So if you have food related questions or need help or a new idea or how to get around a food allergy or how to make something you have to eat less gross - ASK THE YENTA. Leave a question here as a comment and she may just answer it next week. We hope this will be a recurring thing, we ask The Yenta and every couple of weeks she answers.

And also? We went to high school together in NJ and we were both cheerleaders even though we weren't the coolest girls in the world. And if you are very sweet to The Yenta and gain her trust, she may perhaps share photographic evidence of this. Lydia from high school was very, very special. Remember the whole story about me breaking into Mike Tyson's house? Special.

I asked her to share some things about herself with you as she is becoming part of the family. Here's what she had to say:
  • My husband is nine years younger than me. That’s right, ladies.
  • I HATE parades, unless I’m in it and am the Queen of the float.
  • I believe that broken cookies, holiday cookies, any cookies you receive as a gift and cookies that have fallen on the floor have no calories and are fine to eat in excess.
  • If you like my matzoh balls, you’ll love my kugel…
  • I love Beef Jerky. It's delicious and makes me feel like a cave woman when I eat it.
  • I already know you have more kitchen gadgets and chachkies then you need. Next time you go to use any of the following, throw it in the garbage and use your hands: garlic press, lemon squeezer, egg cracker and/or egg separator, Hamburger shaper, etc…
Which leads to my first question - Yenta, why are you hating on my garlic press? What's wrong with a dang garlic press? Also! How does one prepare beets in such a way that they don't taste like dirt? Is it possible? The Cap'n loves them and I think they're made of gross.

Leave your questions below!

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. I have two boys. One is going to turn 14 only a few weeks before this Passover, and he will eat anything and everything. He is 6'2" tall and his voracious appetite actually creates a vacuum around him that is reminiscent of a black hole. My younger boy just turned ten, and is also extremely tall, and just as hungry. The special needs that the younger boy has makes him extremely sensitive to textures, etc. in food. There are common desserts that will actually make him gag. I'm trying to figure out how to feed these giants (and their friends) and still pay the rent. Help?

  2. Yay- I need this.
    Do you have any healthy yet delicious yet easy sides that might brighten up a kind of dreary chicken breast or other lean protein?
    We (well, me) are trying to eat more healthfully, but it's kind of difficult to do when your children get depressed at the sight of one more serving of whole wheat pasta.

    Thank You!
    Mrs. Darling

  3. Kugel is little noodles from heaven...LOVE!

    Welcome yenta!

  4. Welcome to the family, Yenta!

    Do you have any ways to make rice more interesting as a side dish? My husband dislikes it so I never make it...but I'm really tired of potatoes! Extra points if you can sneak veggies into it since I have to trick him (and my kids) into eating their vegetables.

    Guru Louise

  5. I'm trying to use more boneless skinless chicken breast because it's healthy AND because Wegmans' always has it for $1.99/lb. But I'm sorry, it's boneless skinless TASTELESS and not in a good way, not like pasta or tofu. And if you overcook it by one second it turns into Bridgestone Sidewall. And there is only so much stir-fry my family can eat. Help?

    1. Try marinating in low-fat dressing (like Ranch or Caesar) before grilling, sauteing or roasting!

  6. Oh, do I EVER need this!! I'm not a fan of cooking (ME...LOVELOVELOVE when other people cook!), and need help with coming up with a menu of relatively inexpensive meals for a family of EIGHT (8), with no standing-over-the-stove-slaving-in-the-kitchen time. I prefer dishes with 5 ingredients or less, and if I can get away with a one-dish meal, I am a VERY happy camper. My go-to meals have gotten VERY old. Can you PULLLEAASSSE help me!?!?!

  7. I second the question about the chicken breast! We don't eat a lot of meat other than chicken, and I am sick to death of just cooking it in broth with various seasonings. I'm really a novice! It doesn't help that my husband hates all vegetables except potatoes and lettuce smothered in dressing. Please help! Just some background, I have two kids, a 2 year old who is as picky as his father and my 11 month old daughter who is so psyched out of her mind about eating table foods that she will eat anything and everything.

  8. My husband has high blood pressure and the medication isn't helping. We're looking to do more whole foods and cut out virtually all meat. I also have five kids, ranging in age from 2 to 15. The oldest two are teenagers and therefore will eat anything, including the plate and the fridge. The middle one doesn't seem to like anything (especially not beans) and the youngest two are afraid they'll miss something so they take two bites and throw it on the floor.

    Up til now, it has been slightly easier because my husband works second shift so he's not home for dinner often. I can make him salad or something for lunch and not be quite so particular with dinner, but he has an injury and will be on light duty at work for a while (meaning he's going to be working days) so I have to figure out how to cook something my 10 year old will eat that won't kill him.

    Any ideas on kid-friendly cooked-from-scratch whole foods with no beans? They do love veggies that most kids won't eat, if that helps.

  9. Yay!!!! Welcome, Yenta!!!!

    About the egg separator. I hate touching raw egg. It absolutely sends me into Gagland and HeebieJeebieVille. I will follow all of your advice like a well-trained German Shepherd, but I will NOT give up my separator. Love you!!!

    - The Headmistress

  10. Help me with the quinoa! I want to like it so very much

  11. Any great recipes for things that reheat well? My hubby works a weird shift and therefore his dinners are always leftovers...:( Help!

  12. I want to learn to eat greens. I mean, like collards and turnip greens and all those things you generally walk right by in the grocery store. There's a whole SECTION of greens. It's between the celery and the bell peppers.
    I have NO IDEA how to cook them. I mean, I know you can boil them and stuff, but for a family whose idea of greens is the spinach I throw into the mac and cheese, it's gonna be a hard sell.

    Also -- they hate casseroles, so ... help?

    --kate in Michigan

  13. What about food allergies? We mostly do a protein and some kind of veggie/starch sides for dinner, do you have something to break us out of our rut? (Baked chicken with rice, Steak with potatoes, etc). Still, I want to make 1 dinner so all of us can eat together. Between me, Hubby & 3 kids have allergies to: Wheat, Egg, Dairy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Shellfish, & Sunflower Seeds.

  14. I would also like to know why my garlic press is evil.

    Aside from that a few words about veggie haters (like my family), I have started hiding veggies in the food. I make veggie puree, freeze it, and sneak it in (you could use baby food in a pinch but fresh is always better). I still hand out the real thing to the smallish child, in hopes that she will consume it undisguised. But, I no longer have a mental "my child isn't get the nutrients she needs" freak out when she doesn't eat it.

    On that note... I can figure out how to hide the veggies, but I needs some yummy go to meals that are fairly quick, freezable, and/or easy enough for my husband to figure out. I am currently a sahm of 2, but in the next few months I am going to be a working mom of 2, which is new territory and kind of scary(I have been a sahm for 4 years now, so it is a big change). Thanks!

  15. How can I season or dress up any recipe that calls for onions? I am super-duper allergic to onions, and I always feel like my recipes are missing "something" when I have to omit them. Help!

  16. Hooray! I *so* need this! I can use any help you can give me. I'm trying to eat healthier but I have the eating habits of a (picky) toddler. I'm trying to live less on mac & cheese and actually eat something real once in awhile but I HATE veggies and I'm really picky about textures (like I can't stand apple pie because it's slimy). So any advice you can give me on how to feed my little family healthy and make it somewhat healthy that'd be fabulous!!!
    Thanks sooo much!

  17. Man... and I thought I was the only one having to mortgage the house to feed kids! We eat a lot of turkey and chicken (and I do mean so much my sons are starting to cluck) but I need a new way to make it... (I've already substituted ground turkey where my ground beef belonged... like Taco Salads and spaghetti).

  18. My 9-year-old daughter is a picky eater. She looks at her food like it's going to attack her, and she'll successfully push it around the plate until we're thoroughly grossed out watching her. She'll eat noodles and yogurt...and that's about it. Any ideas on how to get her to even *try* some foods?


  19. You really have to check out Aviva Goldfarb and the Six O'Clock Scramble! She even lives near you -- maybe you already know her, since she's another rock star capital-area working mom.

    She will send you an email once a week with a week's worth of meals, grocery lists, options for tweaking for picky kiddos, etc. Whenever dinner is something new and good at my house, someone asks, Is this from Aviva? Our dinner blessing is not 'thank God' it's 'thank Aviva'.

  20. What can I do with hamburger.... other than hamburgers.... And do you have a good meat load recipe? I have two d small kids and my daughter will not touch hamburger unless she didn't know its there

  21. Baked Beets!!!!

    wash gently. cut off top and root. bake in glass casserole whole until soft at 375 degrees. Cool a bit. pull off skins (it will come off easily and in 1-2 peices). Slice or dice as you prefer. Sprinkle with sea salt.

    They come out sweet - not at all tasting like dirt! It's may favorite side in the summer now.

  22. For all of you moms with the picky eaters: there is some research that has suggested that extremely picky eaters can be helped by probiotics, apparently a severe imbalance of digestive flora can result in most foods (I.e. Anything not super bland) being unpleasant to eat. So, fwiw, you might want to consider a probiotic supplement (not yogurt, most of it has too much sugar in it to really do much good). Culterelle makes a dairy-free one for kids that I like...

  23. I absolutely love, love, love Puerta Rican rice. I have tried to make it multiple times with NO success. The problem is not my ingredients, it is the rice.
    I cannot seem to make white rice without it being globby like it was a bowl of mashed potato's. :0(
    I want my rice to be individual pieces of perfectly cooked rice that do not stick together. How do I do this without a pressure cooker? I've asked lots of people... Even my Puerta Rican friends and have never been able to get a good answer.

  24. Help me! I have precisely 30 minutes from the time I walk in the door to get dinner on the table or my one year old turns into a food werewolf. What can I make the whole family that is quick and doesn't hide the veggies? I really want to learn to like them but they always seem to either taste like dirt or I have no clue what to do with them!

  25. Ooh, ooh, I can answer the beet question! My mom found a recipe for beet *slaw*, and it's totally awesome and tasty and harnesses the power of pink root vegetables for Good! I'll post it on my blog and send you the link.

  26. Welcome Yenta!!

    We are in a complete food RUT! I am in need of new/different meal ideas that are also very picky-kid friendly. Seriously, these kids of mine have all become the pickiest kids EVER! They all turned their noses up at mac n cheese last night! Is hell freezing over?? What kid doesn't like mac n cheese??!! Help!!

  27. For all the moms freaking out about how to "sneak" veggies in I recommend the booK "Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and good sense" by Ellyn Satter. very good book on how not to turn meals into power struggles and moms into short order cooks. I have also found roasting just about any type of veg makes it very sweet-toss with little olive oil, salt and top with cheese if needed:) Also red meat IS NOT the enemy (whole fat thing is a POLITICAL movement with NO basis in science) especially venison or grass fed beef...from a Registered Dietitian

  28. Garlic press, OK, but why be hatin' on the lemon squeezer?

    Regarding beets, are you peeling them? Because they shouldn't taste like dirt unless they actually, you know, have dirt on them. I usually just roast mine whole (skin still on) in aluminum foil for a while, like 1/2 hour for small, an hour for larger. Ready when you can fork them (TWSS). And then the skin should just peel off easily with the side of a fork. It should pretty much just fall off. You can do fancy stuff that the Yenta can tell you about, but I usually just eat them just like that, or chill them and put in salads.

    If they still taste like dirt to you, you just don't like beets.

  29. Oh I'm excited! I don't have a question but wish I could sent Yenta some of my *venison jerky.* Trust me. It will make you feel like a cave woman who is head of the murther furkin tribe!

  30. I love my garlic press! What's not to love? Anyway, regarding the problem of not thawing chicken or some other meat for dinner, Pampered Chef has a stoneware dish called the Deep Covered Baker that will cook even a frozen chicken in 30 minutes in your microwave and it will come out as tender and delicious as the rotisserie chickens you can get at the grocery store.

  31. Anonymous with globby rice: do you stir your rice when you put it in boiling liquid? Stirring activates the gluten in rice, making it globby. Just give the pan a little shake to make sure the liquid covers it, but never stir white rice.

  32. Anonymous with globby rice: I make puerto rican rice all the time, including arroz con pollo. I use parboiled rice (usually found in the latin section) and it comes out perfect every time. Add liquid, let it come up to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and put on a lid.

  33. Globby rice? - I use Basmati rice and I add a Tbsp of butter as it starts to cook. Comes out single grains every time.

    Beets? - Peel and quarter them and put them in a baking dish with carrots/parsinps/baby potatoes/onions, whatever you like. Light salt, pepper, and minced garlic (or powder) with olive oil and roast until tender (around 90 min at 375). They tend to carmalize with the onion and get a bit sweet.

    Working moms? - I'm a mother of 2 working full time and my slow cooker is my best friend. I have a book called "The Big Cook" that started the idea, but on grocery day I divide raw chopped meat and sauces/spices/veggies into freezer bags. I drop a frozen brick of shmoo into the slow cooker and when I get home it has magically turned into stroganoff sauce or pasta sauce or curry with apples and raisins. Then I just boil noodles or rice and voila! Dinner that isn't McDonals :-)

  34. I'd love any meal ideas you could send my way. I'm nursing my son who is allergic to: dairy wheat soy legumes citrus corn chicken egg peanuts tree nuts chocolate and a few other things my exhausted mind can't think of just now. My diet lately has consisted of brown rice, quinoa, turkey, beef, fruit and veggies. Help!

  35. Welcome Yenta!

    Any recommendations for a dairy free cheese (or cheese sauce) substitute...say that could be used on lasagne or the like? Kiddo1 is allergic to dairy protein so no butter, milk, cream, whey, etc.

    All of the pre-made "cheeses" out there actually have casein (dairy) in them except 1 that tastes like you melted an all white Stretch Armstrong on your food!

  36. SO many fabulous questions to answer! I can't wait to get started on the responses! Thanks for the warm welcome Ranters! You've made this Yenta very happy!

  37. People give me the stink eye when I comment on how beets taste like dirt. Well, I'm sorry but it's true. I've eaten and prepared them every which way, trying to get myself to like them since I know they're good for you. No luck. I've just started passing on them, saying they're too *earthy* for me.

    *Ahem* dirt *ahem*

  38. Another resource for harried mom's : potRoastOnPaperPlates.com
    Food actually cooked by a working mom every week.

  39. Hooray! I have two questions for the Yenta (this week): 1) I'd like to eat more fish. We need to start cutting down on the beef and pork we eat. We love fish. But I'm scared of it. I have 1-2 go-to recipes, but I need more ideas! 2) In the same vein (cutting down on beef and pork), I'm also trying for 1-2 vegetarian dishes per week. But we're not vegetarian, and not vegan. And I don't have crazy ingredients in my house (i.e. farro, which I'm sure is great, just not a part of my regular rotation) so my vegetarian/vegan friends are little help in this arena. Any good ideas for meat eaters on Meatless Monday? Mac n cheese and lasagna/spaghetti will only go so far. Thanks and I'm terribly excited to see your responses!

  40. welcome Yenta!
    i am a sahm of 2 kids. i have the time to cook, that isnt the problem. my son has crazy food allergies so we're really limited in the food we can eat and are stuck. in. a. RUT!! his allergies are, any nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, carrots(WTF?), sesame seeds and probably a few that i cant think of off the top of my head. i've been wanting to do a stir fry, but am lost as to A) how to do it and B) how to get good flavor without the soy sauce or that other one that is fish based. would love some direction on this and other suggestions to dig us out of the bottomless food ditch we're in. welcome to the family Hooker;)

  41. There is no way you're getting me to chuck my lemon squeezer. A reamer just doesn't cut it when making an entire pitcher of margari- er, lemonade.

  42. Dawn- Try using basalmic vinegar to substitute for soy sauce, in a stir fry or marinade. My favorite one is orange-flavored. Worcestershire sauce, also vinegar-based, is also good as a marinade. I have a child with a dairy, wheat and soy allergy.

  43. My daughter simply started refusing to eat meat when she was two. Nearly three years later, I'm getting tired of her living off of peanut butter and yogurt. Suggestions for tricking her into eating some chicken or beef occasionally??

  44. Anonymous @ 12:56

    re: Dairy free cheese,
    In Australia, I can get a non dairy vegan cheese for my daughter who cannot eat protein. It is manufactured in the UK, so you may be able to find somewhere which imports it

    It is called "Cheezly" cheese, the Redwood company manufactures it.

  45. My three-year-old decided recently that the meat group consists of only hotdogs and shrimp. I refuse to touch another Oscie, but all the shrimp recipes I have are cooked in butter and/or covered with creamy sauce, or stir fry which she won't eat because she hates the sauce. Are there any recipes out there that will let me cook shrimp in a healthy way?

  46. My doctor just diagnosed me with a condition that requires me to eat a low oxalate diet. In case you're not familiar with it, oxalates are in so many things it's disgusting. Gluten, spinach, berries, potatoes, nuts, carrots, chocolate, soy - the list is huge and exhaustive. If you really want to you can look it up and know I accept your sympathy. Add to this that I also really am not a meat fan at all to start with. So basically I'm down to cheese and applesauce. While I'm losing weight like none other, this still SUCKS. Any suggestions for recipes that follow this diet?

  47. I'll follow if she takes back that thing she said about the garlic press =S Also, I'll share a very neat trick on peeling garlic that takes half the time and zero garlic meat under finger nails.

  48. I'm excited to see some new ideas from the Yenta! for the past six weeks or so I've been trying very hard to get out of our food rut. I started using the meal planner at www.bigoven.com and LOVE IT. You can use your own recipes but it lets me figure out WHAT to have for dinner every night and even provides a shopping list. I have found that I'm much more willing to put some effort into cooking a meal with more than 3 ingredients when I know I have all of them! And yes, I do work full time so knowing the day before what I have to cook when I get home is huge!

  49. What can I do to not smell like garlic/onions after cooking with them?

  50. I second the person who said that they really want to love quinoa. I'm trying. Also, I would love some healthy vegetarian options for my 1 year old to eat...she's not picky, eats lots of veggies and cheese but I don't want her to be bored with the usual...I've got mad cooking skills, I just need recipes/ideas.

  51. Any suggestions for a oreagno substitute? I am allergic to it and a lot of my recipes call for it, I've tried parsley and basil but they aren't quite right.

  52. BEETS .. i make a roasted beet hummus .. look on weelicious.com for the recipe .. it's soooo good and the craziest pink you'd ever eaten. my girls LOVE it! .. plus .. it's really easy .. roast the beets (and a clove of garlic if you like) peel and puree with cannelinni beans. so yummy.

  53. My son sings Michael Jackson's Beat It like this:

    "Beat it! Beat it! No one wanna be defeated!
    Show em my monkey!Nah nah nah nah..."

    To that I always reply, "Son, let's not go around showin off your monkey".

  54. Jess have you tried marjoram? It is a little milder, so you will have to sub three parts marjoram for two parts oregano.

  55. Sorry, I couldn't log in to my wordpress ID for some reason-

    @MK, @Dana, @Kim, and others looking for picky-kid friendly, healthy, veggie, fast:

    And for anon. w/ the shrimp problem? What an amazing problem to have! Shrimp can be cooked quickly with just about anything- stir fry with a little oil, salt, and pepper; grill with pineapple chunks; mix with whole wheat pasta and a little garlic or garlic powder

    I saw some other comments for which my blog (potroastonpaperplates.com) has some solutions: quick food!, vegetarian options for meat-eaters (short answer: lentils are great). I also try to provide substitutions for hard to find ingredients (like farro, which I love, but seems to only to be found at Whole Foods- try using barley instead).

    It's a pretty new blog and perhaps not as professional as some- or as hilarious and heart-wrenching as RFMM-, but I work full-time (or more) and make dinner almost exclusively in under an hour- mostly in under 30 min.- with a toddler underfoot.

  56. Thanks anonymous, i'll try that :)

  57. I have decided that the whole beet thing must be genetic. Because I, too, think they taste like earth. Dear mother earth. But then my ex and his sister and his mom all love them and think they are sweet or they are savory with garlic depending on how you prepare them. I TRIED to like them because they are healthy. But I'd rather just eat dirt.

  58. Could someone please tell me the name of this garlic press/crusher..my bought one from Russia a long time ago and it just broke,, and no other crusher does the job! This one looks similar to the one we used to have..just newer;)




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts